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  • 1 Laurentian University Biology Department CA–P3E 2C6 Sudbury, Ontario
  • 2 University of California at Riverside Department of Botany & Plant Sciences Please ask the editor of the journal.
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Ecological transition zones are believed to be unique in their ability to shed light on the organization of populations and communities. In this paper, we study vegetation dynamics in the Great Plains short-grass steppe and Chihuahuan desert grassland ecotone in New Mexico, USA, using long-term, high resolution transect studies of the Sevilleta Long-Term Ecological Research Program. We focus on spatial pattern and examine this in several ways: patch size distribution, spatial autocorrelation analysis, and fractal scaling. These methods are used to examine patch size distributions in two sites representing distributional limits of the dominant species and for detection of an emergent scaling property. We found no characteristic spatial resolution (quadrat size), but rather a fractal structure of spatial variation in abundance and a trend towards consistency of the pattern in time when species were closer to their distributional limit. In this, we were able to detect a robust power law behaviour (the emergent property), indicating strong spatial organization via anti-persistence. Our investigation was exploratory in nature; we feel the results are highly suggestive of intrinsic organization in ecological dynamics and may also be useful in generating testable hypotheses regarding the behaviour of species along ecotones.

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